Ethiopian military clashes with militia in Amhara, injuries reported

By Dawit Endeshaw

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) -Ethiopia’s military has clashed with fighters from a militia in the Amhara region, residents said on Wednesday, in an escalation of a simmering feud between the two former allies that a doctor said had caused more than a dozen injuries.

Fano, a part-time militia with no formal command structure, backed federal troops in a two-year civil war in the neighbouring Tigray region that ended last November. But the relationship has soured over what some in the region say is a disregard by the national government for Amhara’s security.

In a rare public comment by a senior federal government official on an internal security matter, Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen said “security problems in different areas of Amhara region are becoming concerning”.

“We are at a historical moment where we should consider the fact that ‘if you don’t have peace, you will lose everything,'” he said on his Facebook page, calling for peaceful dialogue.

Fighting broke out several days ago when the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) launched an operation to push Fano fighters out of the town of Kobo and other areas, said a diplomatic source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Fano militiamen then seized the holy town of Lalibela, which is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site, the diplomatic source said.

On Wednesday morning, Spain’s embassy in Ethiopia instructed any Spaniards in Lalibela not to leave their hotels or residences, in a message on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

Clashes have been reported in several other Amhara towns. Fano fighters and troops exchanged fire near Debre Tabor on Tuesday and Wednesday, a doctor at a hospital in the town and a police officer told Reuters. Both asked not to be named for security reasons.

The doctor said the hospital had received three people with serious injuries and 10 with minor injuries, including wounds from gunshots and heavy weapons.

“The fighting continued today on the outskirts of town,” the doctor said, adding the road into Debre Tabor was closed.

Two Kobo residents also reported heavy fighting outside the town early on Tuesday but said the situation was calm on Wednesday.

The state-owned Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation quoted ENDF spokesperson Colonel Getnet Adane on Tuesday as saying the military would take action against Fano for “disturbing the country’s peace”.

The ENDF spokesperson, a federal government spokesperson and the Amhara regional administration did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Fano fighters took part in a week of violent protests across Amhara in April after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered that security forces from Ethiopia’s 11 regions be integrated into the police or national army.

Protesters felt the order was meant to weaken Amhara – the country’s second-biggest region. The federal government denied this.

(Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw; Additional reporting by Giulia Paravicini in Nairobi; Writing by George Obulutsa and Aaron Ross; Editing by Nick Macfie and Giles Elgood)